An unidentified US Air Force Boeing F-15 pilot has become an instant YouTube star, unwittingly sharing his explicit insights about the technical and aerodynamic capabilities and limitations of several of the world's best fighters.
While perhaps hurting the pride of the French, Indian and Russian air forces, the USAF pilot's straightforward and sometimes politically incorrect observations are likely to contribute to the ongoing debate about the future of air warfare in the US military's requirements and budget pecking order.
The precise circumstances of the pilot's lecture to a small audience are unconfirmed. He may have known he was being videotaped, but his comments were not likely to be intended for wide distribution.
It is clear that the pilot participated in the recent Red Flag exercise, which also drew India's , French Dassault Rafales and South Korean F-15Ks.
© APG photography/AirSpace
He says the USAF wanted to atone for its abysmal showing by mostly inexperienced pilots against the Indian air force's best Su-30K pilots at a 2004 exercise called Cope India. Four years later, the service's pilots impressed with their professionalism and skill at Red Flag, but the USAF pilot is proud to report: "Amazingly, we dominated."
The F-15 pilots used their simulated combat experience against the thrust-vectoring capability of the Lockheed Martin F-22 to exploit the Su-30MKI's main weakness in post-stall manoeuvring, the pilot says. He adds: "So we start to pull in on him, and then all of a sudden you start to see the [Su-30's aft-] end kick down and he starts doing vectored thrust. But now he starts falling out of the sky. He's falling out of the sky so fast that you don't even have to go up. You just have to pull back on the stick a little bit, pull the throttle, go to guns and come in and drill his brains out."
The pilot notes that the F-15 dominated the Su-30MKI in dogfights so much that the USAF is concerned their success could have budget repercussions.
"Now what I'm scared of is Congress is going to hear that and go - 'great, we don't need to buy any more airplanes'. No, no, no, no," the pilot tells an audience that includes retired air force leaders.
He adds that "it's only a matter of time" before the Indian air force Su-30 pilots learn how to overcome the F-15 tactic used so successfully against them at Red Flag. Moreover, the pilot explains that the F-15s and Lockheed Martin F-16s face several other vulnerabilities in modern combat. He confirms hints that the USAF's long-range radar-guided missiles are susceptible to jamming, blunting their edge in beyond-visual-range combat.
The Indian air force's top-line Su-30MKI fighter is not the USAF's only worry. The USAF pilot also says the Indian air force's RSK MiG-21 Bison aircraft, modified with Israeli radar, active radar missiles and electronic jammers, are now nearly "invisible" to the F-15's and F-16's current mechanically scanned arrays.
The Indian MiG-21 pilots can use their jammers to sneak past the USAF radar screen and engage the F-15s and F-16s in dogfights, where the outcome is far from pre-determined.
"The MiG-21 had the ability to get in the scissors with you at 110kt [200km/h] at 60° nose high and go from 10,000ft [3,000m] to 20,000ft," he says.
The pilot's lecture was riddled by assorted criticisms of foreign aircraft technology. For example, the Su-30MKI historic Red Flag deployment was complicated by the low reliability of the Russian-made engines, the pilot says.
"One of the things the Indians were very disappointed in, was when they FOD'd [foreign object damage] an engine out, the Russians make them send the engine back to Russia, and then they'll send them a new one," the pilot says. "So, not the perfect situation for them being here in the United States with those engines."
French air force pilots, who participated in the same event with Rafales, apparently engaged in non-friendly activities. "They never really came to any merges," the pilot says. "What they were really doing was, they had all their sensors on sniffing and seeing how our radars worked. And that's really all they were doing out here. They came out here and they watched the whole flight, with their newest airplane and their newest electronic receiving units, and sucked up all the 'trons in the air."
For what seems like the lecture's bottom line, the pilot returned to the USAF's central message that the F-22's air superiority capabilities will make it indispensable, and not just because of its advanced systems.
"We just don't carry enough missiles. When the balloon goes up, we're going to have to go in and gun somebody. And the Raptor, thank God, it still has a gun on it," he says.
Asked by an audience member about his opinion of the F-35, the pilot perhaps politely demurs. "Let's save that for another discussion," he says, adding that he "probably knows too much about it. So let's save that for another time."
View the video comparing the F-22 and Su-30MKI
Source: Flight International